The Euro 2016 kicked off in fantastic fashion yesterday as host France rallied late on to beat the well-organized Romania side.
The match was a high tempo one with both sides giving it a go from the blast of the referees whistle but no one expected the the Anghel Lordănescu will stretch the tournament favourites in the fashion they did.
The less fancied Romania who had conceded just two goals from the qualifiers showed why they had been so good defensive as they closed down spaces as a unity and amazingly had the first opportunity of the game but France Keeper Hugo Lloris produced an absolute brilliant block on the line to deny Bogdan Stancu but had no chance when the striker scored from the penalty spot in the second half following a silly foul by Patrice Evra on his namesake Nicolae Stancu.
However, the night belonged to West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet as he embraced the pressure in front of home fans and gave them an opening day bliss with a heroic performance like he has shown all season with the Hammers in the premiership.
The 29-year-old was in the heart of everything good for the Les Bleus going forward – he dragged four defenders towards himself before releasing a sublime pass to Paul Pogba on the edge of the box but the Juventus midfielder hit his shot straight at Ciprian Tatarusanu in goal for Romania.
The goalkeeper was at fault for France first goal on the night when he lost a contest in the air with Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud following a swift left foot cross from Payet.
With the game firmly stood at 1-1, From manager Didier Deschamps pulled out Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba for Christian Coman and Anthony Martial as he preferred Payet to stay on the pitch, fans raised eyebrows because both players had been France best players heading into the tournament but it proved to be the touch of a genius.
Deschamps was vindicated by the brilliance of Payet with only two minutes left of regulation time, the former Marseille lad picked up the ball 25yards from goal, surrounded by five yellow shirts who were closing down on him quickly but he released a powerful left swinging shot that sailed straight into the top left corner of the post for a super goal.
He raced towards the sidelines in celebration as the whole of France joined him and the noise within the stadium was deafening – the supporters were in frenzy and bursting with pride and the chant of ‘Payet, Payet, Payet’ rang out the stadium.
It was in appreciate to a man who few months ago the press were begging the manager to consider him for a spot in France Euro squad and the tears began to roll down his face as he raised his hands in recognition of the fans loyalty.
Deschamps couldn’t wait for the game to finish as he gave him an emotional hug for a job well down – Payet carried the fight for France and that goal may well be a contender for goal if the season.
France have started well at the Euros and are expected to qualify from Group A which consists of Romania, Switzerland, and Albania.
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